Catch up on our work so far by reading through our archive of newsletters here. Scotland the Bread is an innovative social business, owned by its members. With collaborators across the UK and beyond, we are part of… Read More
Scotland The Bread is a collaborative project to establish a Scottish flour and bread supply that is healthy, equitable, locally controlled and sustainable. Our idea is simple – grow nutritious wheat and bake it properly close to… Read More
Advice and recipes for getting the best out of our unique wheat varieties Scotland The Bread flour comes from varieties that were once used to make much of the country’s daily wheaten bread. So it’s not true, as some… Read More
Soil To Slice is a participation project that runs alongside the crop research and the locally-controlled production of a grain and flour supply.
In 2015, with support from the A Team Foundation, the Funding Enlightened Agriculture group and more than a hundred people who pledged more than £6,000 to a crowdfunding campaign, Bread Matters started the Soil To Slice citizen science project with the purpose of helping local communities to grow and bake their own healthy bread, from the soil to the slice.
Scotland The Bread provides each group with:
Seed from three of the Scottish heritage wheat varieties in Scotland The Bread’s research project — and support each community group through a year of growing, milling and baking.
Small-scale equipment to sow and then to thresh, clean and mill the home-grown grains.
Training and support for groups to host their own breadmaking session using their home-grown wheat.
Advice at each stage, from sowing to baking, and collates the findings from each of the groups.
In April 2016, the new Bread For Good Community Benefit Society (trading as Scotland The Bread) took over Soil To Slice. In May, the first Soil To Slice community growers gathered to share their experiences of growing heritage wheat, hear an update on Scotland The Bread’s nutrient research and get a little hands-on experience baking with some of the heritage flour. Read our blog post about the event.
Who is involved?
Granton Community Gardeners is a grassroots group of local residents in Edinburgh. They grow food on street corners, encourage gardening and host meals. The urban garden is spread across nine small patches of land. In autumn 2015, Granton sowed Scotland The Bread’s trial wheats (Rouge d’Ecosse, Golden Drop and Hunters) on 35 square metre plots, from which they harvested 42 kg of grain. Community groups in Glasgow (Locavore and the Concrete Garden) grew the same wheats.In 2016 Granton sowed 100 square metres of wheat; both years this was threshed at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Harvest Festival (see below). Read our case study on Granton Community Gardeners’ Soil To Slice experience here. During Spring 2016, the Edible Gardening Project in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Inverleith Allotments joined the Soil To Slice project. Cyrenians Community Garden at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, the 2000m2 project at Whitmuir Farm and Pilton Community Gardens with North Edinburgh Arts sowed their first crop in autumn 2016.
Harvest and Threshing 2016
All of the community-grown grain was harvested during September 2016 and 2017. Some groups had very small samples, which could be threshed by hand. Three groups threshed at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Harvest Festival event.
The threshing machine was commissioned from a UK company that usually exports machinery of this scale to Africa. Technology of the appropriate scale is an essential part of developing a fair-trade, locally-controlled short supply chain.
Everyone who contributed to the crowdfunding in 2015, including all the bakers who joined in the ‘dough-sharing’, has played a part in providing the equipment and making this happen.
Fermenting Good Ideas
Growing grain on this small scale in urban plots isn’t going to create a viable supply of flour for any community – although it’s worth remembering that a plot of just eight by ten metres can produce enough wheat to make bread for one person for a full year.
However, even a tiny patch of wheat can change the way we think of our growing spaces and their connection with our food.
Abundant possibilities spring up when we are invited to re-imagine the way we ‘do’ bread and to formulate ideas to suit our unique, local circumstance. Possibilities such as: a community-scale micro-bakery to serve a school, a clinic or a care home; a peri-urban farm to supply freshly-milled flour to a local food network; a community to share its breadmaking skills and varied cultural traditions, creating real jobs in meaningful work as it does so; a local authority or NHS Trust to give nourishing bread a central place in its public procurement…
for at least the last fifty years, grains have been chosen in the lab to satisfy a strictly limited set of criteria – namely yield. This misses out on the vital genetic diversity that harnesses the adaptive, evolutionary power of nature, as well as flavour, nutrition and any consultation with the end ‘user’ – the baker and the eater – as to what they want from the end product. We have set out to test the hypothesis that we can democratise, preserve and perhaps even improve genetic diversity, as well as showing how ordinary people can contribute to public science (which belongs to us all) by helping to conserve agro-biodiversity.
It is the view of Hans Larsson, a plant breeder from the Swedish Land University with 40 years’ experience of selecting cereals and the supplier of some of our heritage grains, that the best looking plants are also likely to be the most nutrient-dense. With this in mind, an experiment was devised to select and test spikes of grain based on the aesthetic judgement of the non-professional but enthusiastic lay person.
The event was held at the Botanic Cottage at The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and our thanks go to them for hosting us. This event was limited to Scotland The Bread members and our Soil to Slice groups, and began with an introductory talk on the theory of the project from Andrew Whitley. Ten sheaves of Scotland The Bread wheat and rye, recently harvested from Balcaskie Estate, were displayed for our participants to then select their choice of the five most beautiful spikes from each of their two assigned sheaves.
This judgement was informed by the guidance of Allan Booth, an experienced plant breeder at the James Hutton Institute, as to what to look for in a good wheat or rye plant. His advice began by noting: ‘There’s a diverse range of people here, and my view is that each of you would choose a difference spike – and that’s a good thing for genetic diversity.’
Allan went on to explain that we should be looking for symmetry in the spike, indicating that all the grains in the spikelets are well filled and not shrivelled or diseased. He also pointed out that the middle third of each spike would probably be where the best grains are – just the sort of expert information that citizen plant selectors need.
The experiment will continue in the new season by growing on the selected grains, and hopefully raising the funds to test them for nutrient levels in the laboratory. If beauty and health are connected, which they probably are, we will discover whether the new ‘landrace’ or people’s selection is in fact more nutrient-dense, tasty and digestible when compared to the ‘mother crop’. And we’ll check whether this selection process conserves the great diversity within our crops that is their hallmark and guarantee of chemical-free resilience. By microscopic examination, by growing on grain and then by baking bread together, we will see whether we have improved, maintained, or reduced the genetic diversity of the grain and its breadmaking quality, flavour and digestibility.
In this way, we will assess whether the suitability of a landrace to a particular soil and climate can be judged by the beauty of individual stalks, and genetic diversity improved by selecting and growing grain on this basis. Once learnt, this simple methodology could also be adopted by our Soil to Slice projects as part of the ‘citizen science’ that has always been one of Scotland The Bread’s purposes.
We are beginning to open up plant breeding to the ‘genius of the crowd’, always assisted by the descriptive power of molecular biology. Animated by a sense of place (these plants are growing in Fife soil and are being stewarded by a Fife community), we aim to be midwives to modern landraces and at the same time to demonstrate a process that could be adopted by groups all over the country as we seek to change our food for good. We are also be helping to conserve agro-biodiversity in situ, not least because such diversity is hard to maintain in tiny gene bank samples that only see the light of day when they are grown out in small plots.
Hans Larsson is of the opinion that if he gives away grain that is then grown on for three seasons, the resulting crop becomes a new landrace: the soil conditions and unique properties of that particular location will have so influenced the grain that it can now be considered – and named – a new variety. In this spirit, members of the Granton Community Gardeners brought a sheaf of their Soil to Slice wheat (Rouge d’Ecosse) to include in the selection event, and the prize grains to be grown on in their community gardens. Some was also taken by our newest Soil to Slice group, Forth Environment Link, to grow in Falkirk High Street. The resulting unique landraces will thus add the diversity of their locations to the genetic mix.
The results will have to wait for a whole new growing season – this experiment is nothing if not an act of delayed gratification!
Scotland The Bread has recently grown 70 tonnes of wheat and rye on the Balcaskie Estate in Fife. There are 10 ‘varieties’ which, with the exception of one modern spring wheat Paragon, are characterised by considerable genetic diversity within the crop. This is especially true of the ‘evolutionary varieties’ that we have brought over from Sweden. For example, Hans Larsson created his winter ‘Fulltofta’ rye from at least ten different varieties from as far afield as Greece, Estonia and Finland as well as Sweden. Many of these component varieties are, in fact, landraces, i.e. diverse populations of grains that have become adapted to a certain place over many years of growing and farmer selection. Modern (post-1900) hybrid breeding proceeds by crossing two varieties and selecting only the progeny that expresses the desired traits to the greatest extent. This narrows diversity to the point that in a typical commercial variety every plant in a field is genetically identical.
By contrast, cultivating diversity harnesses the adaptive, evolutionary power of nature. In simple terms, the plants that best adapt to a particular soil and climate and best survive the various stresses of weather, pests and diseases will, over time, dominate the mixture. There is reason to believe that both yield and nutrient density are stabilised, if not enhanced, in this process.
The question arises: should the modern custodian of a landrace or ‘evolutionary variety’ simply re-sow a random selection of seeds from this year’s harvest and trust nature to do the rest? Or can we emulate the practices of millennia of grain growers in somehow ‘improving’ our landrace without inadvertently narrowing the very diversity which is a guarantor of health and a reliable yield?
We suggest that we can ‘democratise’ plant breeding and selection by involving the people who pay for and eat the end result. This isn’t to reject the advances in molecular biology that have transformed our detailed knowledge of plants in recent times. Far from it: we need the experts and their spectroscopes to tell us what we’ve got. But deciding what we want from our grains – in the field, in the landscape, in our economy, in our guts, for our souls even – is a process that would surely benefit from the appropriate application of our collective wisdom. After all, the ‘market’, dominated as it is by a small number of inevitably self-interested corporate actors, has presided over the gradual diminution of nutrients in our grains as well as an evident growth in allergy, intolerance and digestive discomfort. Public health in Scotland is not well served by monocultures, agronomic or economic.
If diversity in soils and stomachs is increasingly taken for granted as essential for healthy function, it surely makes sense to apply the same principle to the crops we grow and the way we breed them.
Read on here to find out how our experiment – our small, quiet and entirely benign revolution – is being carried out.
Organised by the Scottish Food Guide and Scotland The Bread, the Championships are made up of seven classes, open to professional or amateur bakers of any age submitting entries meeting Real Bread Campaign criteria (bread made without the use of processing aids or any other artificial additives). Loaves are judged to Gold, Silver and Bronze standard, with a Supreme and Reserve Champion also awarded.
The stunning display of bread laid out for the judges was made up of loaves of every shape, size, colour and pattern: a testament to the wonder of possibilities created by a few simple ingredients. Judges were given a workshop in fair and meaningful assessment of the categories by Andrew Whitley of Scotland The Bread and Bread Matters before breaking off into pairs for the serious business of smelling, tasting, crust-testing and ingredient-examination.
The results were the following full list of medals (bakery / loaf / category), presented on June 22:
Bread & Roses; 40% Rye with Caraway; Sourdough
Ian Pediani; Black Sesame Sourdough; Sourdough
Ian Pediani; White Sourdough; Sourdough Riddle-Me-Rye; Dalradian Sourdough; Sourdough Riddle-Me-Rye; Pain de Campagne au Rouge d’Ecosse; Sourdough Riddle-Me-Rye; Beetroot, Black Sesame & Coconut Sourdough; Sourdough
Ian Pediani; Country White; Bread from Scottish-Grown Flour
Quay Commons; French Country Sourdough Tin Loaf; Sourdough Riddle-Me-Rye; White Buttermilk Sourdough; Sourdough Woodlea Stables; Sourdough Loaf; Sourdough Baikhous; Baikhous Heritage Sourdough; Bread from Scottish-Grown Flour Luing Bakery; Scottish Country Sourdough; Bread from Scottish-Grown Flour
Ian Pediani; Dark Ale & Cheddar; Bread from Scottish-Grown Flour Baikhous; Crossmyloaf; A Traditional or Ancient Scottish Recipe Baikhous; Baikhous Bap; A Traditional or Ancient Scottish Recipe Luing Bakery; Graddan Loaf; A Traditional or Ancient Scottish Recipe Woodlea Stables; A Bread with Wheat Flour & Oats; A Traditional or Ancient Scottish Recipe Blair Atholl Watermill; Five Grain Loaf; A Bread Excelling in Nutritional Quality
Bread in the Borders; Five Grain Levain; A Bread Excelling in Nutritional Quality Woodlea Stables; Rye Sourdough Loaf; A Bread Excelling in Nutritional Quality
We were struck and encouraged by the number and range of entries baked using Scotland The Bread’s heritage flours, from tin loaves to rounded boules. Wild Hearth Bakery’s trio of loaves made with 100% of each of our three flours – Hunter’s, Golden Drop and Rouge d’Ecosse – sparked an enjoyable interlude in judging for a comparison taste test, with a noticeable difference in flavour between the three.
Congratulations to all those awarded, and a warm thank you to all of this year’s entrants: every loaf on the table contributed to this fantastic celebration of the best of Scottish breadmaking.
Scotland The Bread recently launched three own-brand flours made from historic Scottish wheats that are being registered as Conservation Varieties. The Community Benefit Society has thus far been based at Macbiehill Farmhouse (near West Linton), which is also the home of Andrew Whitley who, with STB co-founder Veronica Burke, has for some years been a prominent promoter of healthier bread produced in more sustainable and locally controlled ways.
Scotland The Bread is moving into the next chapter of its story: we are currently planning to move its main operations to the Bowhouse at Balkaskie Estatein the East Neuk of Fife. This is to allow the scaling up of flour milling and related activities and generate the operating surplus that will allow us to address the other aims of the Community Benefit Society.
Ten hectares of winter wheat and rye have been sown at Balcaskie Estate and a further nine hectares of spring varieties will bring an expected total of 50-60 tons of milling grain for the period September 2018 to August 2019.
We are therefore looking for a Miller-Manager to oversee the milling, handling and marketing of this harvest. The full job description can be found here (PDF) – please circulate it to potentially interested parties.
The role will be based at Bowhouse; see below for more information about the Estate:
The 1800 hectare Balcaskie Estate, owned by the Anstruther family, comprises a mixture of let and in-hand farms and is “committed to cultivating and caring for the natural environment, nurturing local business and supporting the vibrant community”. The wide variety of land and soil types supports an equally broad range of farming activities including potato, vegetable and cereal growing, and livestock breeding and fattening. The land on which Scotland The Bread grains are growing is organically certified and much of the Estate is undergoing organic conversion.
The Estate is a pro-active member of a number of collaborative initiatives, including Food from Fife, a non-profit organisation promoting food production and food tourism in Fife. To improve the ‘field to fork’ supply chain, the Estate has converted the Bowhouse as a collection of production units and a covered market space for producers and consumers.
After the success of 2017’s inaugural Scottish Bread Championships, this year’s expert-packed judging panel has expanded by two, bringing the expertise of cookery writer Sue Lawrence and gastronomy academic Charlotte Maberly to the sourdough-laden table. Read about all eight of the Real Bread critics here, and submit your entry by Friday May 1 (entry deadline extended) for the chance to meet them in person at the Royal Highland Show this June.
The Championships, which we co-created and run in partnership with the Scottish Food Guide, invite entries from bakers everywhere, of any age, just as long as their loaf conforms to the Real Bread Campaign’s definition, i.e bread made without the use of processing aids or any other artificial additives. There are seven classes and you can enter as many loaves in as many classes as you like.
Fred Berkmiller is Chef Patron of l’escargot bleu, l’escargot blanc and Bar à Vin in Edinburgh. Both l’escargot restaurants have been awarded AA rosettes, have won Newcomer of the Year in The List’s Eating and Drinking Guide, featured in the annual Michelin Guide and have been named among Pete Irvine’s top five restaurants in Scotland. Fred himself was awarded The Scotsman’s Food Pioneer title at the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards 2016, was a CIS Chef of the Year 2016 finalist, and is a Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance member. His commitment to artisanal, low-waste practices is demonstrated throughout his menus, in his kitchens and in his tireless promotion of sustainable Scottish food.
Why did you want to be involved in the Scottish Bread Championships?
‘The Scottish food and drink industry has gone from strength to strength over the past few years, diversifying from the traditional whisky and seafood to incorporate much more into its larder, establishing it as a land of food and drink. Bread is a much-loved addition to any hearty Scottish dish, so it’s great to be able to celebrate all of our skilled bakers with this competition and give them the recognition they deserve.
‘I’m thrilled to be a judge for the Scottish Bread Championships. Nothing beats a freshly baked loaf, so I’m excited to see what the participants bring to the table.’
Inver Restaurant may only have opened in 2015, but chef and co-owner Pam now heads up one of Scotland and the UK’s most respected kitchens. With time at Noma on her CV, a Scandinavian approach to seasonality and localism infuses the restaurant’s menu and beyond: sourdough bread, pickles, ice cream, ferments, pasta and charcuterie are all made in house. Butter is churned, carcasses are butchered. Set on the shores of Loch Fyne, Inver was named AA Scottish Restaurant of the Year 2016, and Scotland & Northern Ireland regional winner in The Sunday Times top 100 restaurants 2017.
Gerry is the founder and director of Artisan Food Law, an online resource to help artisan and small-scale independent food businesses navigate the complexities of food law. Gerry’s support, advocacy and guidance has been informed by more than 22 years working as a lawyer in the public sector, including 10 years as chief legal officer of one of the largest metropolitan authorities in England. His work is underpinned by a belief that our approach to food must be informed by a ‘from farm to plate’ understanding, and a recognition that a sustainable food system does not, and cannot, exist in a factory. The man to whom food experts turn for legal guidance was a director of Slow Food International and chair of Slow Food UK with whom he continues to work. Gerry also teaches food law to post-graduate masters degree students – and anyone else interested.
Why did you want to be involved in the Scottish Bread Championships? ‘Good nutritious bread is fundamental to our diet and the fact we all do not have ready access to it is a source of sadness. I am an ardent supporter of the Real Bread Campaign so can see the Scottish Bread Championships will put real bread on the map, provide an opportunity to celebrate all the truly great bakers out there who make a real difference and recognise the best. All provide us with real bread, real pleasure and a better diet.’
Chef/director of Edinburgh’s Cafe St Honoré, Neil is known for his commitment to sustainable, seasonal Scottish ingredients, and for his kitchen’s daily sourdough. Neil is a co-presenter on BBC Radio Scotland’s weekly Kitchen Café programme, writes a monthly recipe column for The Scotsman magazine, and has become one of Scotland’s most recognizable chefs after featuring on a number of TV and radio shows promoting the best of Scottish produce. He was named CIS Chef of the Year 2014; the Scottish Restaurant Award’s Scottish Chef of the Year 2011, and is an active Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance member.
Why did you want to be involved in the Scottish Bread Championships?
‘I’m delighted to judge the Scottish Bread Championships. At Cafe St Honoré we bake fresh bread every day, and I encourage others to do the same. It’s astonishing to think that bread is basically flour, water, salt and time! Bread has been such an important part of our diets for centuries so it’s wonderful to see so many new artisan bakeries opening and a return to real bread making.
‘I’m very much looking forward to tasting some classic loaves. I’ll be looking for good textures, crumbs, crusts and hopefully some new ideas too. It’s going to be an exciting day!’
After winning fame on the BBC’s MasterChef in 1991, Sue has forged a career as one of the UK’s leading cookery writers. She writes a regular column for Scotland on Sunday, wrote for the Sunday Times for six years and regularly contributes to Sainsbury’s Magazine, Woman & Home, Country Living and BBC Good Food Magazine. A regular face on British and Australian television, until 2011 she was one of the food experts on STV’s The Hour. Raised in Dundee, she now lives in Edinburgh.
Why did you want to be involved in the Scottish Bread Championships?
‘Three of my 18 cookery books are solely about baking and obviously bread features. I love everything about good bread: the feel of the dough, the smell as it bakes and of course the taste. There are so many passionate home bakers and also artisan bakers now in Scotland and I feel very proud to be part of the Championships.’
Charlotte Maberly is lecturer for and co-creator of the Queen Margaret University MSc Gastronomy – the UK’s first interdisciplinary study of food, aiming to change the way we think about what and how we eat, and where it comes from.
Charlotte’s love of food has led her around the world exploring food cultures, learning about the complexities of our global food system, teaching urban agriculture, and working for the US’ only organic farmland trust. She obtained her master’s degree at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UniSG) in Italy and then returned to Scotland motivated to bring a global perspective to local food education.
In April 2016, along with members of UniSG and the QMU Gastronomy team, Charlotte organised the UK’s first Gastronomy symposium – Scotland’s FoodScape. The event explored the significance of food in Scotland and involved producers, policy makers, artists, eaters & academics from around the world.
She also runs her own company – Food Connects – which seeks to bring innovative food education to individuals, businesses and organisations in the UK and abroad, via workshops, training and food experiences.
Why did you want to be involved in the Scottish Bread Championships?
‘I’m looking forward to being involved in the Scottish Bread Championships because there are exciting changes currently occurring regarding skills and approach to bread baking in Scotland. There is a palpable shift towards valuing real craft and provenance, which I feel also represents a growing movement across other areas of the food sector. It’s a really positive sign and it’s great to celebrate this with events like the Scottish Bread Championships.’
Jennie is a Professor of Sustainable Nutrition and Health at The Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen. Through her research she works to advance understanding of dietary behaviours and how to improve what we eat to achieve health and environmentally sustainable diets. Jennie’s current research focuses on issues of food security, exploring the environmental, social and nutritional implications of dietary choices and how to balance these. Previous research includes community based nutrition and obesity related policies and interventions. Jennie is a member of the Daniel & Nicole Carasso Foundation International Scientific Committee, the BBSRC Global Food Security Scientific Advisory Group and has contributed to reports for the Scottish Government, Food Standards Scotland and WWF-UK.
Why did you want to be involved in the Scottish Bread Championships? ‘Bread is an important food that can contributes to a healthy and sustainable diet, as well as being a great, tasty food to eat. I believe that the Scottish Bread Championships provides an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the best quality breads that are being produced and enjoyed in Scotland.’
Chris has been Real Bread Campaign coordinator since 2009, campaigning for recognition of the value and definition of Real Bread; championing local, independent bakeries that make additive-free loaves, and encouraging people to bake their own Real Bread at home. Chris co-wrote Knead to Know, an introductory guide to success in baking Real Bread for local community, and curated and contributed to the recipe collection Slow Dough: Real Bread. He is also editor of London Food Link’s ethical eating magazine The Jellied Eel, published by the charity Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming.
Why did you want to be involved in the Scottish Bread Championships? ‘It’s great to be involved in what I’m pretty sure is the first ever national competition dedicated to celebrating Real Bread and the bakers who make it.’
The turn out was impressive, so chances are you already know all about the first Crossmyloof Bread Festival, held on April 21st on the site of the former Crossmyloof Bakery in Glasgow.
‘Bread and roses’ was the theme of the day, alluding to the political slogan: ‘The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too’. This appeal for fair wages and dignified conditions was the bedrock of Crossmyloof Bakery, founded in 1847 by philanthropist Neale Thomson. Its remit was toproduce good quality, affordable bread for his workforce and the people of Glasgow, and this slogan encapsulates the lengths to which he went to reform the working conditions of journeyman bakers in the middle of the 19th century.
Top quality, affordable bread for all is, of course, a priority at the top of our list as well, so we enthusiastically accepted an invitation to talk about Scotland The Bread’s work. Charlie Hanks – Scotland The Bread Member, Soil to Slice participant and experienced Breadshare baker – regaled the crowd on Scotland The Bread’s behalf, accompanied by some stunning sample loaves made from our heritage flour by Baikhous.
Besides a number of stalls selling some of the best baking available in Scotland, there were free sourdough-making demonstrations throughout the day from Baikhous, with starter kits available to allow visitors to get started at home.
The festival site was just behind The Glad Cafe, who played a big part in curating and organising the festival. A music venue and creative hub as well as cafe, they hosted music throughout the day and evening.
The festival launched a number of Heritage Lottery funded activities to highlight Neale Thomson’s philanthropic work in the 1840s and 50s. These will take place throughout the summer and will involve tours for adults and primary school children as well as a number of educational resources: website, map, school worksheets.